A Portal man who lost his wife, 6-month-old great-granddaughter and the infant's mother Wednesday in a car crash in Jenkins County remains on life support in critical condition.
Ottis Burke, 66, "opened his eyes and squeezed my hand," Burke's nephew Andy Garrett said Friday from Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. "But he is still on life support due to his injuries."
Susan Burns, Burke's daughter, said her father "opened his eyes and looked right at me" several times Friday.
"He is in critical but stable condition," she said.
Burke and his 4-year-old granddaughter, Aleigha Schultz, survived the 8:45 p.m. crash on Highway 25 and Gay's Hill Church Road near the Bulloch/Jenkins County line, but his wife, Lois Burke, 68; the couple's 6-month-old great-granddaughter, Paisleigh Hill; and the baby's mother, Cortney Hill, 23, all died in the accident.
Susan Burns said first-responders said her mother "was still holding her Bible" when they arrived at the scene. Her parents were very involved in church, and her father was a preacher. Reports stated the family was leaving church when the wreck occurred.
Ottis Burke was airlifted to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where he remains in the intensive care unit, according to Georgia State Patrol Post 21 reports.
Four-year-old Aleigha, whose mother, Brittany Schultz, told an Augusta television station was found trying to unbuckle her infant cousin from a car seat after the wreck, was taken to East Georgia Regional Medical Center in Statesboro, from which she was released after treatment, according to reports.
The crash occurred as Cortney Hill, driving a 2015 Nissan Sentra, was preparing to make a right turn off Highway 25 onto Gay's Hill Church Road when a 2002 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck, driven by Matthew McNeil, 29, of Macon, struck the car from behind. Reports were incomplete Friday and did not include further details of the accident.
McNeil was treated at the scene for minor injuries, reports said.
Cortney Hill and her baby lived on Banks Dairy Road in Portal, while the Burkes' residence is on Cowboy Way in Portal.
Georgia State Patrol reports list charges as "pending" and state the GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team continues to investigate. Troopers J. B. Scott and A.M. Cheney responded to the scene.
Jenkins County Coroner Henry Young said Friday the victims' bodies were sent for autopsies, as required by state law when an infant death is involved and when a court case could be pending.
"We know the cause of death as being the accident," he said.
Donations to assist the Burke/Hill family in handling funeral expenses may be made online at www.youcaring.com/pfc-jamie-hill-susan-burns-511772#.VqplB4SfM8k.facebook.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.